Monday, August 10, 2009
Conversation with an American - Part 2
Vic-Vic accepted Paul's marriage proposal, but her contract in Singapore would not end for another year. In the ensuing year they exchanged over 400 letters, sometimes writing twice a day.
When Vic-Vic's contract ended in June the next year, Paul flew to Singapore to meet her and to take her back to the Philippines. He said, "It was like seeing someone I had not seen in a long time as we got to know each other well through our letters."
Of course, Paul wasn't naive about the Philippines as he had done a lot of reading. However, he did not expect that she live in a remote village in Mindanao. Her village is nestled between the mountains of Agusan del Sur. It is so remote that jeepneys do not even go there. If people want to go somewhere, they usually just hop on a carabao (water buffalo), and go.
Tapaz was like going back in time 150 years. In fact Paul was shocked to see them using bolo to open cans. When he bought them a can opener during a rare trip to the nearest city, they didn't know what to do with the damn thing. They just sat there and look at it. That's how far behind they are.
In Tapaz, Paul lived in the family's small, simple house with no ceiling and a native nipa roof. They had electricity but mostly at night only. There were no glass on the window and no interior doors. The house was made of simple boards nailed together. Rooms were created by tacking up blankets and sheets. They get most of their drinking water by catching rain water. Paul said, "If it doesn't rain, you don't drink."
Everything Paul did drew an audience. When he took a bath at the village well, it drew an audience. He chopped woods, it drew an audience. Everybody thought he was rich. "A girl said to me, "You're rich.' I said " Why do you say that?" and she said," Because you are wearing a ring."
The marriage between a Filipino and a foreigner brought on the biggest party Tapaz had ever seen. Over a thousand people turned out to celebrate. They slaughtered 3 pigs and a huge water buffalo. A disco was set up and they played, among other songs, a warped version of Achy Breaky Heart. After two week and with his ticket about to expire, Paul went back to the States.
"Suddenly I was back in America alone again. Psychologically it crushed me. I have to go back and stay until she accomplished all the paper works in order to get her an immigrant visa to go to America."
Paul didn't expect his second trip would be a nightmare.
To be continued...